Vulnerable Children and Families

Why Not A Family? Video online

The video I’ve been working on for the past year is online. The title is “Why Not A Family?” and the purpose is to raise awareness of better alternatives for the care of orphaned and vulnerable children. You can watch it here. The video challenges the idea that orphanages are really the best long term option for the most vulnerable children, and it suggests a better way.

 What would motivate someone to make a video questioning orphanages? Please watch it and see for yourself.

More and more you the conversation about orphanages is turning around the point that 80 percent of children in residential care worldwide have one or more living parents, and the vast majority have other living relatives who could potentially care for them. The main reason that parents and relatives give for putting their children in orphanages is poverty. The problem is that putting a child in an orphanage is often easier than getting practical support from either the government or any other source to keep the family together. It’s time to make a concerted effort to change that.

Would you like to learn more? Go to and spend some time reading the articles by experienced …

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My friend has died of AIDS

Andrew Sullivan posted last week about How to Survive a Plague, a documentary about the AIDS epidemic in America. Then a follow-up post with reader comments caught my attention. They were reflecting on a terrible crisis that’s largely passed. One person wrote about his daily dose of Complera: “One pill. Every morning. Forever. And I’ll be fine.”

How wonderful for him.

I typed this response:

My friend died of AIDS on April 25 this year. Unlike your reader, he wasn’t taking Complera but a combination of outdated drugs every morning and evening. The drugs themselves were attacking his organs over time. He was only nine. He’s survived by his older sister and many friends who are also living with HIV.

The long term survival of all my young friends living with HIV is very much in question today, because they are poor. A decade ago life saving ARV’s were finally produced for the poor, and today they are still taking the same drugs. There are only two levels of treatment available for them. I hate to think what will happen when the kids on second level treatment start failing, and the time will come. They are dying because their

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A boy painting his home

The week before he joined an “art party” at the children’s center where he lives.  A teacher has been working with kids at the center since mid-2007, and some of the older students are very good. They helped the younger kids during the art party, taking up brushes occasionally to teach by example. The results were amazing, and moving if you know the stories behind them.

I made a short video documenting the event (coming soon).

I like the image of creating a painting, and this one has a subscript for me. It’s a boy at an orphanage painting his home – not an imaginary home, but the home where his mother lives. I don’t know his particular story, because he’s new to the center, but it’s a fact that the vast majority of children and youth in orphanages have homes and relatives: grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, brothers and sisters. Most still have one living parent, and quite a few have two. The number one reason they are in orphanages is poverty. There are many orphanages but few family support services to restore families and keep them together.

It’s not surprising that a child in an orphanage would paint his …

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Orphanages versus homes and families

Written by on December 22, 2009 in Notes By The Way, Vulnerable Children and Families with 0 Comments

I’m spending Christmas this year with my family at an orphanage in Cambodia. It’s a decent place run with genuine love on a very low budget (much lower than the linked article). They care for kids living with HIV, who are rejected by most orphanages. And they could use some money, if you’re looking to give, because they run on a shoestring.

That being said; I hope for a future without orphanages. I’d like to see orphaned kids being raised by their extended families, because the majority of “orphans” in the world have relatives who could take them in. Heck, a lot of them have at least one parent alive (the definition of “orphan” in Cambodia is that at least one parent has died). Often the relatives are very poor, so they think an orphanage would be better for the child, but a small subsidy would help them accept the responsibility.

Here’s an excellent article from the New York Times that makes a case for supporting families rather than starting more and more orphanages.

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It all started when her father died

Written by on October 21, 2009 in Notes By The Way, Vulnerable Children and Families with 3 Comments

A story of how a Cambodian girl was forced into prostitution begins with the following words:

When she was 5, her father died. “After that, my mother changed,” Sreypov says.

I was immediately reminded of a 12 year old girl I met earlier this year. Her father died, and now her mother supports the family by collecting and reselling trash. It’s work reserved for the most desperate people. I learned that this girl had recently considered getting a job at a hostess bar where she could earn a hundred dollars or more a night being a “girl friend” for guys who prefer to think they aren’t hiring prostitutes. My friend, a Cambodian pastor who runs the school that she attends, persuaded her to stay in school. I saw her on my last trip, but I didn’t get an update. I hope they are still enduring.

Read the full article about girls forced into sex slavery in Southeast Asia. Here’s how it begins:

Sreypov Chan, a young Cambodian woman with a feisty laugh and a love of Kelly Clarkson songs, has a recurring dream: She’s being chased by gangsters. They catch her and throw her into a filthy, cockroach-infested room. She

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